How to Teach Spelling with Simple Spelling Rules and Tricks!

how to teach spellingSpelling is tough no matter how old you are.  Just because you have graduated from high school and gone on to earn a professional degree does not necessarily mean that spelling is going to come easy to you.  Often times there is just that one word that you have to spell-check or erase a few times before you can get it right.  So how do you teach spelling to someone who is learning English as a second language, or looking to brush up on their spelling skills?  Before you get out a thesaurus or a dictionary and go through each word one by one, we are going to give you some tips and tricks on how to teach spelling to get a firm grasp on some of those silly silent vowels, confusing consonants, and pesky pronunciations!

Basic Rules of Spelling

Before you start teaching actually word by word spelling, you should first go over the basic spelling rules that anyone should know.  These are going to be great to go back and reference if there is any confusion and are helpful memory aids.

“I” before “E”:  The “I” before “E” except after “C” rule is vital to remember.  The letter “I” should always be before the letter “E”, even when they are side-by-side in a world.  However, if either of these letters appears after the letter “C”, then “E” should come before “I”.  For instance, “receive”.

  • To help with this rule, also try sounding out words as you say them.  For instance, if the “e” and the “I” sound like a long “a”, then the “e” should come before the “I”, such as in the word “eight”.
  • Be wary that there are exceptions to this rule—there are always exceptions!  The exceptions to this rule include: “either”, “leisure”, “their”, “weird”, and “protein”.  There is no better way to learn these exceptions than to simply memorize them.
  • Other exceptions with the “I” and “e” after the “c” include words such as: “ancient”, “efficient”, and “science”.  There are also words that contain the letters “eig”, which include “height” and “foreign”.

Double Vowels:  All languages include vowels, and in English, you can find yourself coming across words that contain two vowels right besides each other.  If you are new to English, this might look strange, and it can be hard to determine which one comes first.  However, there are some helpful tricks that can help you remember which one to put first:

  • Remember this rhyme: “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.”  Cute, right?  This just means that the vowel that comes first should be the vowel whose sound you can clearly hear, followed by the vowel whose sound you cannot make out.
  • You can also attempt to listen for the long vowel sound.  Usually when there are two vowels side by side, the first one is a long vowel sound, and the second vowel is generally silent.  For instance, in the word “coat”, the “o” is pronounced, but the “a” is not.
  • You can apply the rule of sounding out the word to other letters, such as “e” and “a”.
  • Again, there are exceptions to this rule, such as “u” and “o”.  In the word “phoenix”, for instance, you can hear the “e” sound if you sound out the word, but it is tough to make out the “o” sound at all.

Piggybacks:  Piggybacks are known as pairs of consonants that are pronounced where one is silent.  This can make spelling difficult, so it is important that whoever you are teaching look out for these piggy backers.  Here are some examples of piggyback pairs to remember:

  • Gn, pn and kn:  With these pairs, in these piggyback pairs you can only hear the “n” sound.  One example is the word “gnome”.
  • Rh and wr:  For these pairs, only the “r” sound is apparent.  For example, the word: “rhyme”.
  • Ps and sc:  With these two you can only hear the “s” sound, and the letters “p” and “c” are silent. For example: “psychic”.
  • Wh:  With this single piggyback pair you can only hear the “h” sound.   An example of this would be the word “whole”.

Pluralizing Nouns:  This can be tricky, so we are going to go over a few helpful ways that you can teach someone how to pluralize nouns correctly.  Firstly, it is important to pay attention to the last letters in the word.  Once you are aware of the last letters, you can follow these common rules:

  • Singular nouns that end in the letters “ch”, “sh”, “s”, “x”, or “z” can be turned plural by adding the letters “es” to the end.
  • Singular nouns that end in a vowel and the letter “y” can be made plural by adding the letter “s” at the end.
  • Singular nouns ending in a consonant followed by the letter “y” can be changed to plural by dropping the “y” and adding “ies” to the end.
  • Singular nouns ending in “f” or “fe” can be changed to plural by dropping the “fe” or “f” and adding the letters “ves” to the end.
  • And simply, singular nouns ending in “o” can be turned plural be adding an “s” to the end.

how to teach spelling

How to Practice Spelling

Now that you have the rules down to teach, here are some helpful tips for helping someone put these spelling rules into practice.

Break it down:  Break your words down into syllables, smaller words, and smaller parts.  Once they are broken down, look for words within words.  For example, “together” can be broken down into “to” “get” and “her”.  Also, consider learning prefixes and suffixes.  This can also help improve your spelling.

Sound it out:  Sound out words can also help you figure out how to spell them.  However, make sure to pronounce the word correctly as well.  With that in mind, simply reading out words that you do not know how to spell can be helpful towards the overall spelling process.  Make sure that syllables are pronounced correctly or you might miss something as small as an “e” in the middle, for instance, the word “interesting”.

Mnemonics:  Memory aids or mnemonics are a great and fun way to help someone learn how to spell.  You can try different things, such as:

  • Silly or fun sentences.  For example, the world: “right” can be remembered with the phrase: “real is great happy tiger”.
  • Clues or clever meanings behind words that you make up can help you remember spelling.
  • Try breaking up a word and remembering a part to the whole.  For example, the spelling of “separate” can be remembered by the fact that there is the word “rat” in the middle.

Classics:  As always, there are the classic ways of studying to memorize the spelling of words.

  • Practice, practice, practice the words that are commonly being misspelled so that they will stick in your brain!
  • Write out words that you are having trouble with and rewrite them at least ten times.  Split the words up into syllables so that you can see them on paper.
  • Consider making flashcards for your problem words and practice them multiple times throughout the day.  You can even use post-it notes to stick commonly misspelled words around the house for reminders.

Spell Yourself Silly!

As with anything else, the more you practice, the easier spelling will become for you. has some helpful and convenient courses for some helpful tips and tricks towards getting your letters in the right place.  Time to put those letters in their correct spots!